Spectacular pictures of the uncommon “Inexperienced Comet” that graces our skies
A rare “green” comet is crossing our solar system and astrophotographers have snapped photos. Although not yet visible to the naked eye, this comet, named C/2022 E3 (ZTF), could be when it makes its closest approach to Earth on February 1, but you must probably be in a very dark place . As of now, you’ll need a telescope or binoculars to see it for yourself. The images here were taken with an exposure time of several minutes.
This comet is also called “Green Comet” because of its greenish color. Professor Paul Wiegert of Western University in Canada said comets contain carbonaceous molecules that break down under the sun’s ultraviolet light. Among other things, this produces dicarbon molecules that produce the eerie green glow associated with some comets.
Our main photo is from Arizona photographer Chris Schur, and he points out that the comet has a rare sun-facing antitail.
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“The gas tail is the bluish-white ray that extends to the left,” Schur explained via email. “The broad, fan-like dust tail points downwards and is a beautiful golden-yellow hue. The amazing anti-tail faces to the right and also has a beautiful golden hue.”
Chris said he carefully edited the comet’s head region so that it clearly shows the comet’s star-like nucleus surrounded by a blue-green glow of ionized carbon atoms.
We have more photos from around the world below, sourced from the Universe Today and Twitter Flickr pool.
Comet 2022 E3 captured with a Vixen VSD 100mm F3.8 astrograph, 50 x 20 sec with a Nikon Z7II @ iso 1600 in the foothills of Tucson AZ. Credit & Copyright: Eliot Herman.
C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered in March 2022 by astronomers using the Zwicky Transient Facility wide-field survey camera at Palomar Observatory in California. Astronomers have been able to trace its orbit and found that it flies past Earth for the first time in about 50,000 years and will not be seen again in thousands of years.
As skywatchers know, comet brightness is notoriously unpredictable, but C/2022 E3 (ZTF) should become more visible over the next few days.
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) captured in Armenia, near the city of Dilijan. 20 January 2022. Credit & Copyright: Dmitry Kolesnikov
Comets can also change their appearance quickly, as shown in these two images by Andrew McCarthy. The first picture is from January 19th, and his picture here is heavily processed:
Here is my first attempt to capture the “Green Comet”, Comet c/2022 E3 (ZTF). This was particularly challenging due to the humid conditions and clouds, but I’m thrilled I was able to capture it at all! pic.twitter.com/t2VGEnfKX8
— Andrew McCarthy (@AJamesMcCarthy) January 19, 2023
A few days later (and with less processing), the comet looks dramatically different. Some changes may have occurred due to coronal mass ejection from the Sun
Still chasing the Green Comet. Comets change quite quickly as they get closer to the sun. In this case, the ion tail appears much less dramatic than in my previous image, and the dust tail flaps out in a broad fan shape, something I’ve never seen in a comet before. pic.twitter.com/ZcM3a96LHp
— Andrew McCarthy (@AJamesMcCarthy) January 22, 2023
One of our favorite astrophotographers, Alan Dyer never disappoints! Here is his view from Canada:
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) on the night of January 22-23, 2023 when it was in Draco, with it near the reddish star Edasich (also known as Iota Draconis) above and that of the edge visible galaxy NGC 5907 below comet . The comet’s dust tail showed a strong anti-tail peak before the comet’s greenish coma, since that was two days before we crossed the plane of the comet’s orbit when we would see its dust tail “edgy.” The comet’s coma is a strong cyan or green from glowing diatomic carbon molecules common to comets. In my recordings that night there was little sign of the blue ion tail. Credit & Copyright: Alan Dyer.
#C2022E3 #ZTF taken by Antonio J. Robles @AJ_Robles on January 19th from Estepa, Seville, Spain with a C14 + ASI2600 at f:1.9 (Hyperstar).
A 300 s exposure image was enough to show its curved, dusty (yellow) tail, long plasma tail and its really bright and “green” coma ?? pic.twitter.com/ewzaUdD1zV
— DR. Josep M. Trigo ??#PlanetaryDefense #DART HERA (@Josep_Trigo) January 19, 2023
Would you like to try and see for yourself? Here’s an animation from Western University showing where the comet will be visible in the sky:
The path of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) can be seen in this animated GIF created by Stellarium.